- Sean Coughlan and Daniel Rosney
The British monarchy has been in the news again in recent days, after the premiere of the fifth season of The Crown on the Netflix platform.
Younger views of the monarchy, with no first-hand memories of the 1990s, are likely to be “strongly influenced” by its dramatization of that era The Crownanalyzes Professor Pauline Maclaran of the Center for the Study of Modern Monarchy at Royal Holloway, University of London.
“I think it’s very likely that these Netflix episodes will be taken as a quasi-documentary“, Says the monarchy expert.
“We already know that royalty is much less popular with this generation,” he adds.
She doesn’t expect the new season, which covers the troubled relationship between Princess Diana and then-Prince Charles, to generate much more sympathy for the monarchy among young people.
“It is likely that they understand Diana as the victim of Carlos’s treatment of her,” he speculates.
Fiction vs. reality
Beyond debates about fact-checking, she says the impact of such a TV show is its emotional message, particularly when filtered through social media.
The Crown it has elements of a luxury soap opera and it is the drama of human relations that will connect with the audience, drowning out any caveats about historical accuracy.
For young Gen Z viewers, Professor Maclaran hopes that Diana will emerge as their “cultural icon”, by identifying with his personal struggles, his championing of causes, and his defiance of starched institutions. She is a social media meme for the outcasts.
Diana’s story, played by Elizabeth Debicki, will be the dominant narrative, appealing to a young audience who don’t remember her when she was alive.
“These media representations can be very powerful,” says Professor Maclaran.
Young people also seem more willing to accept the authenticity of the version of The Crown.
A survey of YouGov showed that young people aged 18 to 24 were three times more likely than those over 65 to believe that the new series of The Crown it is “elderlyitaly precise”.
Netflix describes the series as “fictional dramatization, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors”.
The Maclaran expert points out that the monarchy has benefited from this same idea before, including the 2006 film queenstarring Helen Mirren and also written by the creator of The CrownPeter Morgan.
There, Queen Elizabeth was shown having to adapt to the new times, filling in the unspoken gaps in a way that humanized the royal family.
“The image of the queen really benefited from queen. She gave him an emotional side that people hadn’t seen,” notes Maclaran.
But she hopes that the new season of The Crown leave one mixed print of the monarchy, particularly for younger viewers.
“My opinion of him as king has changed”
The Netflix series works as a history lesson for Linzi Cormack.
“When all this happened, I was little,” explains the 29-year-old. “Seeing her really opened my eyes to the whole royal family and what happened.”
The young woman from Stockton-on-Tees, in the northeast of England, says she believes the way royals are portrayed on screen is exactly what happened behind the palace gates.
She admits that with fiction she returned to have respect for Queen Elizabeth.
“If I’m honest, it changed my opinion about the royal family. It made me interested,” she acknowledges.
The season made her feel much more negative about King Charles.
“My opinion of Carlos as king has changed and I don’t think Camila had to be queen”it states.
“I think what they did to Princess Diana was horrible considering how beloved she was,” he adds.
“Destined to be together”
Princess Diana is the only reason Louise Wilson sees The Crown.
The 25-year-old from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland admits she sometimes forgets the series is fiction.
She didn’t watch the first three seasons, but started when Diana was portrayed by Emma Corrin in 2020 because she “seemed like a normal person.”
Also he changed his view of then Prince Charles and Camila.
“I really didn’t like them before I saw her, but then I understood that they were meant to be together.”
For Tori Cooper, 29, from Texas, USA, much of the dramatization on screen is new information.
“I didn’t know Carlos knew Camila before Diana and it was interesting to see the phone calls they were having and how he loves Camila all the time,” he tells the BBC outside Buckingham Palace.
“Sometimes I think it’s 100% real”he says, admitting that he sometimes refers to the series as a documentary.
“But I’m sure they take some liberties on a lot of things,” she says.
There is an unequivocally wide generation gap in attitudes towards the monarchy.
The surveys of YouGov of last month showed that:
• 30% of young people between 18 and 24 years old believe that the monarchy is “good for the UK”; compared to 73% for those over 65.
• 45% of young people between 18 and 24 years old believe that Carlos will do a good job as king; for those over 65 it is 83%.
Monarchy historian Ed Owens believes this is part of a much broader skepticism towards institutions, not just royalty.
“There is a sense of disenchantment among young people about how society and politics work at the moment. The monarchy is an institution that embodies the establishment political, people see it as part of an outdated system that doesn’t work for them“, describes.
If young people are less enthusiastic about the monarchy, University College London history professor Heather Jones says this is due to the lack of a clear distinction in how royalty is represented.
She believes that the overall effect of The Crown in the young it will be “reinforce the mystique of the monarchy”instead of undermining it.
But he worries that an entertainment series, a creative script, will get mixed up with the historical record.
“There is a real gap in historical knowledgeso young people often assume that what they are seeing in a historical drama is real,” says Professor Jones.
She names war movies, such as “1917” and “Dunkirk,” and other examples where she sees a lack of recognition that they are “sexy, entertaining, fictionalized versions of history.”
Which raises even more ethical issues on The Crown is that many of the protagonists are still aliveJones points out.
It is not simply imagining the past, it is a dramatization of the lives of people who are still part of the present.
The closer the series gets to the present, the more problematic it becomes. This might be dramatized fiction, but the loss and pain are very real. The death of the central figure, Queen Elizabeth, is still very recent.
“The Crown it has always been strongest when it stays close to historical events in a precise way. When it strays into highly dramatic invented territory, it undermines itself…it sensationalizes events that are already sensational enough,” says Professor Jones.
Buckingham Palace told the BBC it does not comment on The Crown.
Netflix argues that the television series represents a “significant decade for the royal family, one that has already been scrutinized and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians.”
“The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events“says Netflix.
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“My opinion of Carlos as king has changed and I don’t think Camila had to be queen”: how “The Crown” can damage the image of the monarchy among young people